WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Streaking
The Women's Hockey Squad Is Riding A School Record 17-Game And 84-Day Unbeaten Streak
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 21, 2013 17:01
Down by one with less than a minute to play, most teams resign themselves to a likely defeat. A net without a goaltender seems to be a gaping mouth on the far end of the ice, easily choked by the puck slipping into the wrong hands. During the regular season, the prospect of an empty net goal usually means a crushing defeat to a single game. Very rarely do the six skaters find themselves defending 80 days of work.
After facing and defeating four top-10 teams over the course of the previous two months, the Boston College women’s hockey team found themselves in that exact situation. One minute to go, and No. 4 Cornell still held a one-goal lead. The smallest error could turn the puck over to the Big Red, putting them in a position that they hadn’t faced since Oct. 25, 2012: a potentially losing situation.
In October, the situation would have been far from foreign. The Eagles had a tough start to the season, dropping their first three.
“We had a bad start,” said senior defender Dru Burns. “We felt what it was like to lose. No one liked that feeling, but we learned to put things in perspective.”
With loss comes a tough lesson in discipline. While some feel the need to scramble lineups and positions, the Eagles stayed calm. Head coach Katie King Crowley trusted that she had potential on her team and that consistency would eventually pay off. Her strategy did not involve making big moves that would shake the team.
“Our team has done a good job overall figuring out their role and taking their role seriously on the team,” she said. “That was a big thing this year because we do have some younger players who are goal scorers and some older players who have been mainstays on defense.”
Even new players are aware of how important those roles are to the team. Freshman Haley Skarupa, who now leads the team in goals and points, saw that even when things were going poorly, a steady approach pulled them through.
“When we were losing, everyone stuck to the plan and to what they had to do individually, and it all fell into place,” she said.
With October drawing to an end and only one win under their belts, BC met Minnesota-Duluth at home. Even though the start to the season had been a rocky one, the Eagles stuck to their established roles. After dropping the first game of the series, their efforts paid off and they were finally able to slip past the tough opponent with a 3-2 win, their second of the season.
Finally, things were clicking. The next week, they faced Boston University, another top-10 team, and came away with a 7-1 win in the first meeting of the weekend and a 5-5 tie to keep them unbeaten. During the next month, the Eagles began to build momentum, rolling past Providence, Northeastern, and Yale.
In January 2006, the Eagles won seven straight to set the all-time school record for consecutive wins. This November, as the team approached that mark, the record was not on their minds.
“We just were taking it game by game and didn’t really realize until we beat (the record),” Skarupa said.
Even with a one game at a time attitude, success never goes completely unnoticed. Rather than letting the streak, which by the beginning of January had grown to 10 straight wins and 15 games without a loss, cause undue pressure, the team used it as a tool to keep their confidence up and increase their motivation.
“Our team is really loose before games, people don’t get too wound up,” Burns said. “We like to joke around before games. It’s part of our team chemistry.”
The new year has not slowed them down or tightened them up. Three more wins against top-10 teams, Clarkson, Northeastern, and an overtime thriller against St. Lawrence, have established the Eagles as one of the top teams in the country. Just this week, the Eagles earned their highest ranking in program history at No. 2 behind the University of Minnesota. Rankings, however, do not pull a lot of weight in the BC locker room.
“Right now, we try to just make sure to focus on the next game that we have and not on the rankings,” Crowley said. “We’re all happy that our program has continued to grow, and it’s definitely an honor, but we try not to focus on those numbers.”
At Cornell on Sunday, it seemed as though over two months without a loss might finally come to an end. With the safety net of a goaltender gone, six BC skaters took to the ice. Lesser teams may take that as a moment to panic. BC took an alternate route and relied on the same roles that they had since October. Skarupa, one of the six, took the puck and scored with just 47 seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime and allowing the Eagles to come away with the win.
“We have a lot of motivation from the streak, it drives us more,” Burns said. “I knew we weren’t going to lose.”